After the war was over, Norway, together with Sweden and Denmark felt that they could assist the Korean society with medical assistance. Their joint efforts resulted in the operation of a hospital, for the general Korean public, for ten years.
A joint Scandinavian project
The National Medical Center is a hospital situated in central Seoul. It was established after the Korean War through cooperation between Norway, Sweden and Denmark, the UN and Korean authorities. The Korean government operates the hospital today. Already in 1951, the Scandinavian representatives in Korea discussed the possibility of medical aid to Korea after the war. Norway had NORMASH, Denmark had a hospital ship, "Jutlandia", in harbor at Incheon, and Sweden had a Red Cross hospital in Busan. A Scandinavian cooperation was therefore logical. The original thought was to start a hospital with 1000 beds and educational opportunities.
After the Scandinavian governments, the United Nations Korean Reconstruction Agency (UNKRA), and the Korean authorities had considered the plan, a suggestion was ready. The plan was to start a smaller hospital with 450 beds located at the grounds of the Seoul City Hospital. UNKRA was responsible to rehabilitate the facilities already available, and to build new ones. The agreement was signed in March 1956. According to the agreement the hospital should serve as a national institution aimed at improving medical services to the public and to better the overall medical standards in the war-thorn country. The hospital would become a part of the public health system in Korea.
Operation of the hospital
The agreement was originally signed for 5 years, and the hospital opened October 1, 1958. It soon became clear that Scandinavian presence was required for a longer period, so an additional 5-year term agreement was signed in 1963. In 1968 the hospital was handed over to the Korean authorities, but it still received Scandinavian assistance until the year of 1971. After this date the hospital has been operated solely by the Korean authorities. Today a small monument, with the three Scandinavian flags, is located at the entrance of the hospital where it serves as a memory of the Scandinavian cooperation and contribution.
During the 10 years that the Scandinavian countries operated the hospital, a total number of 367 Scandinavians was working there. They were medical doctors, nurses, and other personnel. Among them, 139 were Norwegians, 134 Swedish, and 94 of them were Danish. The hospital was for several years the leading hospital in Korea. The Scandinavian contribution helped maintain an active exchange of medical personnel between Korea and the Scandinavian countries. Several Koreans have either worked at NMC and/or visited Norway for training. Many of them are now members of the Korea-Norway Friendship Association and are in addition members of the Scandinavian Foundation. A "Scandinavian Club" at the hospital is still operating.